Kaierau and Marist digging deep for derby glory
By Jared Smith
Derby weekend is always a keenly anticipated time in Tasman Tanning Premier, but the boiling broth is expected to be extra spicy at the Country Club on Saturday.
Wanting every point they can muster before facing their fellow Bottom 3 sides in the now-annual race to secure the precious fourth spot, Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist should have a lot of pent-up frustration to bring at their injury ravaged town-mates Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau.
The 2017 season is starting to look pretty far back for Marist – it was the last time they were semifinalists – while perhaps even more galling, they have not beaten their cross-town rivals since sweeping both games in 2018.
With 10-11 men injured, many of them incumbent or heir apparent Steelform Whanganui players, Kaierau appear vulnerable, as was shown when they just got out of Ohakune with a 22-15 win over McCarthy’s Transport Ruapehu.
However, Marist coach Travers Hopkins has not thrown added impetus on his players due to opportunity this week – despite the lack of success in recent seasons, Marist still approach each and every match like they can win it.
That was true even for their last game up at the Dallison Park graveyard against an unbeatable Waverley Harvesting Border, because while a 33-5 scoreline is nothing to write home about, it’s better than 79-19 from the year before.
“At 12-0 at halftime, there was a real sense of confidence, I think we were playing some good code,” said Hopkins.
“But Rush [Vereniki Tikoisolomone – two tries] comes on and does what only Rush can do, and Craig [Clare] has got that team running really, really well.
“Any given Saturday, there’s no different approach to anyone.
“We’ve been battling injuries just like Gibbo [Kaierau coach Carl Gibson], but we work hard, and hopefully it pays some dues.
“It’s not a nice place to be, especially as a coach, when you’re trying to put a competitive side on.”
Whanganui representative players Jack Yarrall and Josiah Bogileka are giving their all – the former in the Top 5 of the MVP list while the latter was gutted when he nearly set up a corner try against Border, only to see Tikoisolomone snatch possession and run 100m to the other end – their only opponent who could.
But the true praises must be sung for skipper Brad Graham, the 2012 Whanganui rep who played his 100th Premier match for the club against Border.
“He just exemplifies what you’re looking for – not just as a captain, but a player – you wouldn’t find anyone with a bad thing to say about him,” said Hopkins.
“I think it needs to be highlighted just how hard he plays – never less than 100 per cent, puts his body on the line.”
Gibson expects to see a lot of bodies on the line this Saturday.
“Kaierau vs Marist is always a hard hit out – it’s the town derby.
“I’ve known a few of the Marist boys for a while – they’ve all got spirit and courage. They’ll sniff an opportunity…it will be a great day.”
When they were slight favourites to make their first grand final in a decade last year, before losing a home semifinal to Byford’s Readimix Taihape, Kaierau had a few injuries, although none they couldn’t absorb.
Yet a 2021 casualty list including but not limited to Dylan Bowater, Kohlt Coveny, Dillon Adrole, Matt Ashworth, Jack van Bussel and Tawera Puhohotaua is proving very taxing.
Flanker Cade Robinson at least will make his comeback from a hand injury, but that is about Gibson’s only good news.
“I’ve lost pretty much my whole front row for this game.”
A neck injury to a Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau prop from Senior is compounded by Tai Pulemagafa being unavailable this Saturday.
“We’re doing everything we can to put a front row together,” said Gibson.
“We just hope that everyone we roll in takes their opportunities and gets stuck in.
“Ngamatapouri don’t have a B team, so they defaulted to Taihape. We have a B team, so between both our teams, we’ll find a way.”
Kaierau continue to unearth gems however, as winger Harry Unsworth scored two tries and set up another in Ohakune, while teenager Ezra Malo showed great maturity at first-five.
Gibson was still to decide if Malo or captain Ethan Robinson takes the No10 jumper this weekend, with both players utility value being stretched as there are always other gaps to fill in the backline.
“I don’t know which of them I will start there. I’ve got to have stuff covered, [injuries] just keep coming.”
If Graham is well established as Marist’s man for a crisis, then it is lock Josh Lane who has taken on that mantle for Kaierau this season – giving encouragement to new players not much younger than he is, while countless times he has been knocked over but staggered back up because there’s just no-one else.
“To be fair, he’s been leading, he’s the key to our whole team. Playing exceptionally well, with courage,” said Gibson.
In the other derby games, Settler’s Honey Ngamatapouri are hopefully over their personnel issues as they host Border up the Waitotara Valley, while the Ruapehu vs Taihape clash at Rochfort Park should be a ripper.
Kickoffs at 2.30pm.